January 2017: Ex-army dog handler is now school mentor

MENTOR Lorenzo Willis is using the skills he learnt in the army to help students at Haslingden High School.

Lorenzo joined up at 17 when he decided A level study was not for him, even though he achieved A* to C grades at GCSE.

The 22-year-old from Ashton-under-Lyne is originally from Great Harwood and attended Norden High School.

He said: “I went to college to do my A levels and I had done a year, I wasn’t struggling but I wanted to do something more than sit there and study.

“I decided to see what I could do and I joined the army.”

After just over four years he decided to leave after getting married and now has gone back to school as part of the Lancashire County Council Ex-Service Personnel Mentoring programme.

Lorenzo joined the Royal Army Veteran Corps as a dog handler. He was based in Peterborough and did one tour at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan for seven months when he was part of the team training Afghan security forces to take over when the UK troops leave.

He was also based in Germany, Jordan and Cyprus.

He said: “I got married and so decided to have a change of career. I felt like I had learnt what I wanted to from the army and I wanted to try something new.

“The army taught me discipline, to have courage when you need it, respect and also maturity.”

Lorenzo saved up all his leave and got special permission to leave the army early, as his officially finishing date was in November, so he was able to start his contract with LCC in August and begin at Haslingden High School in September.

He works one-to-one with students on progress, behaviour and attendance and sometimes a combination of the three.

Lorenzo said: “When the students find out I am ex-Army they are interested to know more.

“When I explain what I have done then already a conversation builds up and a rapport develops quickly. Then I get the student to create goals for themselves.

“The first term I was working one week in school then training the next in Preston. Now all my coursework is in for assessment. Working in a school is definitely different to dog training.”

Lorenzo’s contract runs until the end of the school year and he is hoping to secure a full-time job in a school.